Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Broken Laws, Broken Lives Discussed on Thom Hartmann Show

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Thom Hartmann, a national progressive talk show host, today featured on his show a discussion of PHR’s report Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact. A transcript of the feature is expected to be available.

Mr. Hartmann spent several minutes quoting from various areas of the report, and commenting on what he was reading. He made clear his disgust with what the men who agreed to be in the report, who were never charged with any wrongdoing, had been put through. He also addressed the Obama administration’s reluctance to “look back” and bring the people responsible for the torture treatment to justice.

For more information on PHR’s work against torture, see Campaign Against Torture.

More Coverage of Psychologists’ Rally at APA Convention

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008


The Boston Globe also covered Saturday’s Psychologists for an Ethical APA Rally.

Holding signs that read, “Do no harm” and “Abolish torture,” about 100 people attended a rally outside the American Psychological Association’s annual convention yesterday, urging the organizations to ban its members from being involved in military interrogations and torture as part of the war on terrorism.

A resolution to that effect is being weighed by the organization’s 148,000 members, and debate on the topic has permeated the discussion at this year’s meeting, held at the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center. Members are sending in their votes on the issue this month.

The actions of psychologists have been called into question lately as their role in the Bush administration’s interrogation policies in detention centers around the globe increasingly has been made public.

“We need to make policy changes to ensure that this never happens again,” said Steven Reisner, a New York psychologist who spoke at the rally and is running for president of the association.

He noted that psychologists’ involvement in interrogations that include prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, or sensory overload violates the primary responsibility of all medical personnel to do no harm.

“These are standard operating procedures,” Reisner said….

“Psychologists are very directly engaged,” … said [PHR President Len Rubenstein]. “Behavioral science teams make sure everything a detainee sees or hears enhances the interrogation process . . . they are involved in the whole effort to break detainees down.”

Psychologists have helped define lines of questioning for detainees, suggested techniques to get them to divulge information, and advised military personnel on when a person has had enough or when they should push harder in a confrontation. Some say such practices are tantamount to torture.

“They are really at the heart of it,” Rubenstein said. “It’s not enough to say that you can’t participate in torture, it’s the interrogations.”

Report Author Hashemian on Her Interview with Laith

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

In December 2006, Broken Laws, Broken Lives author Farnoosh Hashemian met a man named Laith.

Laith was arrested in October 2003 and was released from Abu Ghraib in June 2004. During his imprisonment he was subjected to sleep deprivation, electric shocks, different forms of suspension, threats of sexual abuse to himself and family members, and other forms of abuse; the evaluators suspect that he was also subject to sodomy. As a result of his arrest and incarceration, Laith is currently suffering from lasting physical and psychological injuries including major depressive episode, PTSD, and alcohol dependence.

(Broken Laws, Broken Lives, 24)

Stephen Soldz on BLBL and Medical Complicity in US Torture

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

PHR’s friend, psychologist Stephen Soldz, discussed Broken Laws, Broken Lives today on his blog, Psyche, Science, and Society. Soldz observed that in addition to “medical evidence supporting torture claims, and evidence of the severe long-term effects of the abuse,” Broken Laws, Broken Lives also “provides abundant documentation of the extent of medical and psychological complicity with the torture.”

In no case did medical personnel report abuse. In many cases they patched up detainees to facilitate additional torture:

“[W]hen the doctor had finished treating him, “I heard the doctor say ‘continue’ (to the interrogators)”, p. 21.

The cases where medical personnel were “helpful” are just as disturbing:

““[The doctor] helped me … he told the soldiers, ‘If you go on torturing him in this way, he will die’,” p. 85.

Not surprisingly, detainees did not report psychologists consulting in interrogations (SOP called for these psychologists to not identify themselves, an interesting ethical issue in itself). But treatment psychologists were perceived to be collaborating with interrogators:

“Haydar indicated, however, that he suspected the psychologists shared information with the soldiers,” p. 48.

And:

“While in Camp Delta, Youssef asked to speak with a psychologist because he was distressed, and the two spoke about him missing his family and his feelings of sadness. Although Youssef believed the meeting was confidential, he stated that shortly after the psychologist left, he was brought to an interrogator who immediately brought up information connected to his disclosures, such as telling him that he was going to stay at Guantánamo for the rest of his life and discussing his family (“Don’t you want to leave this place and get back together with your family?”…If you do as we tell you, you can get back to your family.”). He stated, “I figured out the reason they had called me for the interrogation was because the psychologist had told them about the meeting.” He stated, “They were stressing these fears very much.” Following this interrogation, Youssef reported that he was moved to the “worst” section in Camp Delta, where he was not allowed to have a blanket or a mattress,” p. 58

After the publication of this report, any claim that psychologists helped keep detentions or interrogations “safe or ethical” are completely unsupportable. Psychologists, and indeed, all medical personnel, regardless of their personal characteristics, were simply part of the apparatus of abuse. As Maj. Gen. Taguba — who was driven out of the military because of his Abu Ghraib investigation– states in his preface:

“And the healing professions, including physicians and psychologists, became complicit in the willful infliction of harm against those the Hippocratic Oath demands they protect.”

If we do not stop this complicity, we thereby ourselves become complicit. After this report, we can no longer say “We didn’t know. We thought they were helping.”

 

Medical Evidence Supports Detainees’ Accounts of Torture in US Custody

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Cambridge, Mass. (PRWEB) June 18, 2008 — Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has published a landmark report documenting medical evidence of torture and ill-treatment inflicted on 11 men detained at US facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay, who were never charged with any crime. The physical and psychological evaluation of the detainees and documentation of the crimes are based on internationally accepted standards for clinical assessment of torture claims. The report also details the severe physical and psychological pain and long-term disability that has resulted from abusive and unlawful US interrogation practices.

“Rigorous clinical evaluations confirm the enormous and enduring toll of agony and anguish inflicted for months by US personnel on eleven men who were detained without any charge or explanation,” stated PHR President Leonard Rubenstein. “Their first-hand accounts, now confirmed by medical and psychological examinations, take us behind the photographs to write a missing chapter of America’s descent into the shameful practice and official policy of systematic torture.”

Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact documents practices used to bring about excruciating pain, terror, humiliation, and shame for months on end. These practices included, but were not limited to:

  • Suspensions and other stress positions;
  • Routine isolation;
  • Sleep deprivation combined with sensory bombardment and temperature extremes;
  • Sexual humiliation and forced nakedness;
  • Sodomy;
  • Beatings;
  • Denial of medical care;
  • Electric shock;
  • Involuntary medication; and
  • Threats to their lives and families.

In the foreword to the report, Maj. General Antonio Taguba (USA-Ret.), who led the U.S. Army’s investigation into the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal, wrote: “After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

“Ending the use of torture, while essential, is not enough. The United States government must make this right. Those responsible for these abuses must help heal the grievous harm inflicted in our name,” said PHR CEO Frank Donaghue. “PHR is calling for full investigation, accountability, an official apology, and reparations, including medical and psychological treatment for the survivors.”

Physicians for Human Rights, 2 Arrow Street, Suite 301, Cambridge, MA 02138 | brokenlives[at]phrusa[dot]org | Tel 617.301.4219